A Renton apartment complex will pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming that it discriminated against current and prospective tenants because of their race or whether they had young children.
The owners of the 268-unit Summerhill Place Apartments decided to settle the lawsuit, which was filed in July 2010 against the complex, its management company, and former apartment manager Rita Lovejoy.
Summerhill's owner still disputes the claims.
"Summerhill Apartments and GRAN strongly disputed the US Attorney’s position. In light, however, of the cost of litigation and the diversion of resources that it would have required, Summerhill Apartments and GRAN made a business decision to settle the matter. Summerhill Apartments and GRAN has always been and continues to be committed to compliance with the Fair Housing laws," according to a statement from property manager Christy Rohr.
The lawsuit alleged that Summerhill unfairly treated African-American, Hispanic and Indian tenants, and those with children by discouraging them from living at the complex. The issue came to light following research by the Fair Housing Council of Washington, that then reported its findings to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which conducted its own investigation before notifying the Department of Justice, according to a press release.
“Working families already face enough challenges finding affordable housing,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said in the release. “Unlawful discrimination because of their race, their national origin, or because they have children, should not be one of them.”
As a result of the settlement, Summerhill will pay $85,000 to tenants and prospective tenants who were affected by the discriminatory practices, pay $25,000 in penalties to the government as a civil penalty, provide a common recreational area for all their tenants, including children, Provide fair housing training to their employees; and develop and maintain non-discrimination policies at Summerhill.
The settlement must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, according to the release.
Former, current and prospective tenants who may share in the settlement fund will be identified through a process established in the settlement. Anyone who believe they were subjected to discrimination at Summerhill should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743 mailbox # 9997 or e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to remove a comment erroneously attributed to property manager Christy Rohr.